Distinguished Research Professor of Urban Planning Donald Shoup was featured in a Bloomberg article arguing for the abolition of free parking. According to Shoup, drivers are subsidized at the expense of everyone else, and there is “no such thing as free parking.” He proposed pricing street parking according to market value, including desirability of the space, time of day and the number of open spots. Then, he suggested spending the revenue from street parking to better the surrounding neighborhoods. Parking is the most obvious way to make progress on issues including affordable housing, global warming, gender equity and systemic racism, Shoup said. Now, the pandemic has challenged modern notions about parking in America, with many parking lots converted into restaurant spaces and dramatic decreases in traffic. Shoup sees this as an opportunity to facilitate a dialogue about parking in order to make cities more equitable, affordable and environmentally conscious. “All parking is political,” he concluded.
By Stan Paul
Leland S. Burns, UCLA emeritus professor of urban planning and a preeminent scholar of housing economics and policy, passed away at his home in Santa Monica on May 16, 2021. He was 87.
Burns, who came to UCLA seven decades before as an undergraduate student, became renowned in the United States and internationally for his work and research, which often focused on low-income housing. He was a prolific author of influential books in his field and published “The Housing of Nations” in 1977 with the late Leo Grebler, a UCLA professor of urban land economics who is considered the father of modern housing economics and housing policy.
“The book was the first international, econometric study of housing and led to much further research on the topic,” said Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and a longtime friend and colleague of Burns.
Other notable titles during Burns’ long and productive career include “The Future of Housing Markets, a New Appraisal” (1986), also co-written with Grebler, and “The Art of Planning: Selected Essays of Harvey S. Perloff ” (1985), co-edited with John Friedmann.
Burns was born in Osage, Iowa, in 1933 and came to UCLA in 1951, earning a bachelor’s in business administration in 1955, followed by an MBA in 1957. He was a Fulbright Scholar in the Netherlands and completed his Ph.D. in economics in 1961 from the Netherlands School of Economics, now Erasmus University, in Rotterdam. The same year he began teaching urban land economics at what is now the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
He later became one of the first faculty members in UCLA’s newly formed Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design, where the late Harvey Perloff became dean in 1968. There, Burns held a number of leadership positions, including associate dean from 1969 to 1971 and again in 1986 as acting associate dean. He also held numerous UCLA and departmental academic administration and advisory posts, including membership on UCLA’s Committee on Academic Personnel.
Burns had a close association with Cambridge University, where he lectured for 10 years in the Department of Land Economy and was a research scholar for three decades. At Cambridge, he was a Fellow Commoner of St. Edmunds College. Throughout his career, he also held a number of research and visiting scholar appointments at institutions such as UC Berkeley and at universities in Austria, Scotland and Japan.
Burns also served as a consultant and member of numerous public agencies, commissions and boards. They include the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
He served as a consultant to the Los Angeles Regional Transportation Study for the California State Division of Highways, as well as on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Committee on Urban Housing. Other appointments included the Economic Commission for Europe, Economic and Social Council, United Nations, Geneva; the Office of Planning and Research of the Governor of the State of California; the Coastal Conservancy; and many other government and civic entities.
He was a referee for several academic publications, including American Economic Review, Urban Studies and California Management Review, plus manuscripts for the University of California Press. From 1983-89 he was the associate editor of Urban Studies and served on the editorial board for many years.
Another of Burns’ many achievements was the house he had built in Santa Monica Canyon in 1974, Shoup said. Burns commissioned internationally renowned architect Charles Moore, who was then chair of UCLA’s Architecture Department, to design the house
“An outstanding feature of the house is the baroque pipe organ that Lee played well and often,” Shoup said, adding, “Lee was a fine musician and was connected in musical circles in the United States and Europe.”
Burn was a former colleague and friend of Dolores Hayden, professor emerita of architecture, urbanism and American studies at Yale who also formerly taught at UCLA. “He was always ready to talk through a research question about economics, planning or design.”
Students who were advised by and studied as master’s and doctoral students with Burns went on to become leaders in and out of the field of urban planning. He was doctoral dissertation chair for Kathleen M. Connell Ph.D. UP ’87, who was elected as California state controller in 1995.
He also served as academic advisor to Bish Sanyal Ph.D. UP ’84, who went on to work at the World Bank and is now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Sanyal said that Burns’ “mentorship, generosity and friendship” played a large part in his professional career, which includes serving as head of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and later as chair of the entire MIT faculty.
“I will miss Lee, and will remember his gentle smile — but rigorous professional standards — which helped me become who I am today,” Sanyal said.
A Los Angeles Daily News op-ed written by UCLA doctoral student Nolan Gray featured Urban Planning faculty members Donald Shoup and Michael Manville. The piece focused on minimum parking requirements mandating that homes, offices and shops include parking spaces, as well as on Assembly Bill 1401, which would prohibit California cities from imposing these requirements within half a mile of transit — an area where residents, shoppers and employees are least likely to drive. Nolan pointed out that developers already have an incentive to include parking in order to lease or sell a space. Shoup noted that minimum parking requirements are a key culprit in the state’s affordable housing crisis because the cost of including parking gets added to rent and mortgages. Manville added that providing off-road parking is associated with a 27% increase in vehicle miles traveled and a significant increase in emissions, since people are encouraged to buy and drive cars instead of choosing more sustainable transportation options.
Urban Planning Professor Donald Shoup and California Assemblywoman Laura Friedman co-authored a CityLab article calling for an end to minimum parking requirements, arguing that the outdated mandates drive up poverty, homelessness and carbon emissions. “We’ve essentially built many of our cities for cars and made housing for humans incidental to that use,” the authors wrote. Across the United States, they noted, there is an average of 1,000 square feet of parking per car but only 800 square feet of housing per person. Shoup and Friedman urged passage of Assembly Bill 1401, which would end California parking mandates for new buildings near public transit and in walkable neighborhoods, while still giving developers the option to add parking if needed. If the bill becomes law, it would reduce the cost of housing and serve as a model of sustainability, they argued. “In this era of climate change and a crisis of affordability, we have to reclaim urban land for people,” they wrote.
Urban Planning Professor Donald Shoup wrote an article in Parking Today about changes in the parking industry over the last 25 years. For most of the 20th century, the industry was stagnant, with parking meters that “looked identical to the original ones introduced in 1935,” Shoup explained. Since he published “The High Cost of Free Parking” in 2005, new technologies have made it possible to measure occupancy, charge variable prices for curb parking and make paying for parking much easier. Using license-plate-recognition cameras, parking apps and voice commands, many cities have been able to adopt demand-based pricing for curb parking. Shoup predicted that in the future, artificial intelligence may be able to determine optimal parking spots for price and time. “Better parking management can improve cities, the economy and the environment,” Shoup wrote. “The parking industry can help save the world, one space at a time.”
Recent articles in Medium and Sightline highlighted the findings of Associate Professor of Urban Planning Adam Millard-Ball’s new research on the relationship between parking and driving in cities. While many cities have been designed under the assumption that the urban environment should accommodate people’s desire to drive, researchers led by Millard-Ball found that that assumption is backward. “Increased parking causes more car ownership and more driving while reducing transit use,” the team concluded, noting that “buildings with at least one parking space per unit have more than twice the car ownership rate of buildings that have no parking.” The Sightline piece cited Urban Planning Professor Donald Shoup’s observation that parking spaces are a “fertility drug for cars.” Furthermore, the research team found no correlation between parking supply and employment status, indicating that buildings with less parking do not limit the job prospects of their occupants.
In an interview with ITS International, Professor of Urban Planning Donald Shoup shared the key findings of his life’s work on parking and transportation. While most people don’t want to pay for parking, Shoup found that free parking takes up a huge amount of valuable land, and the cost of that land is shifted into higher prices for everything else. He also found that “free parking greatly increases the amount of driving, which congests traffic, pollutes the air and contributes to global warming.” To address these issues, Shoup recommended charging for curb parking, spending parking revenue on public services and removing off-street parking requirements in cities. Shoup believes that “better parking management can improve cities, transportation, the economy and the environment.” His recommendations are seen as a cheap and simple way to increase economic efficiency, protect the environment and promote social justice. “I’m trying to save the world, one parking space at a time,” said Shoup.
Cities of the Future checked in with Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, to gauge the progress of parking reforms he has long recommended to increase economic efficiency, protect the environment and promote social justice. Shoup favors charging fair-market prices for on-street parking, re-investing revenue in the neighborhoods that generate it, and eliminating the requirement that building developments provide off-street parking. One commonality among cities that have successfully implemented these reforms is that green activists have forged a coalition with merchants and other stakeholders, said Shoup, a noted author and leading researcher at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin. Shoup added that the COVID-19 pandemic has filled streets with bicycles, pedestrians and outdoor restaurants instead of cars, and this has made previously unthinkable parking reforms conceivable and perhaps unavoidable as cities sorely need the money that paid parking can provide.
Canada’s National Post featured the work of Urban Planning Professor Donald Shoup in a commentary about Edmonton’s decision to remove all minimum parking requirements from real-estate developments in the city. Renters and homeowners who receive a “free” parking space pay a hidden cost regardless of whether they use the space, he argues. Free parking also encourages people to drive to work instead of considering alternatives such as public transit. After decades of research, Shoup came to the conclusion that all public parking spaces should be metered, ideally from hour-to-hour or minute-to-minute, with the money being used in the neighborhood where it was generated. He has encouraged cities to stop requiring an arbitrary number of free parking spaces, arguing that most urban parking lots show less-than-optimum use. Edmonton will be the first city in Canada to allow builders to use their own judgment in allocating parking to housing units and offices.
Urban Planning Professor Donald Shoup spoke to the Parking Podcast about his recommendations for improving parking in cities. First, he recommended charging a fair market price to use the curb. Parking meters are the exception in most cities. Shoup argued that parking “should be priced so there is never a shortage of parking.” He defined the fair market price as the lowest price a city can charge and still have one or two open curb spaces on every block. Next, he argued that cities should limit off-street parking, or at least remove off-street parking requirements. Shoup’s third recommendation is for cities to dedicate all or some revenue from parking meters to fund additional public services on metered streets, including landscaping, cleanliness and accessibility. He noted that if people know how the meter revenue is being spent to benefit the community, they may be less resistant to paying for parking.